The streets of Rovaniemi have recently been decorated with street art under a project of the Rovaniemi Art Museum that aims at bringing more colours to the city walks. Some of the recent pieces include wall paintings under the Jätkänkynttilä Bridge and at the parking lot of Arctic City Hotel.
More like a European city
Artist-producer Samuli Kontio, who works at the Rovaniemi Art Museum, is in charge of the project. Describing how the idea for the project was born, Kontio says, “My friend Matti Seitamo, master chef at the Arctic Light Hotel, and I were thinking about what to do to make Rovaniemi look like a European city. He came up with the idea to convert the Arctic City Hotel parking lot to a modern art gallery and potentially a chill spot for future events, such as markets, bazaars or festivals.”
Kontio decided to give life to the idea, “I took it from there and went to speak with Director Culture and Sports of Rovaniemi City Merja Tervo and Rovaniemi Art Museum Director Hilkka Liikkanen. I guess they liked the idea and the City of Rovaniemi hired me as a city artist and a cultural event producer.”
The project has been developing very well so far, attracting more and more talented artists to create street artworks in Rovaniemi. “We’ve made a couple of big wall paintings and several small ones that have been noticed by both local and national media. We have also made a music video for the Finnish beat poet Asa that featured some art activities. We brought famous tattoo artists Jarno Kantanen, Antti Kuurne and Error to Rovaniemi who painted three art panels hung on the Art Museum’s outer wall,” says Kontio.
When it comes to the future of the streets of Rovaniemi, Kontio has his own point of view, “May be there will be fewer construction sites and more appreciation for older city blocks. It’s not that expensive to renovate them. We could use some kind of focal point for culture that has artist’s studios, residences, galleries and a bar that can host big events. And of course there should be more parks, more small businesses, more stuff that attract people to visit Rovaniemi, and more jobs for cultural and creative industry to make graduates stay here. We should be more like Oulu.”
Jaakko Laitinen, musician from Rovaniemi, is painted under the Jätkänkynttilä bridge. Painting is designed by Pekka Kumpulainen and it is painted by group of artists.
“Street art is a sign of creative energy and lively city”
Roosa Nevala, cultural producer at the City of Rovaniemi, shared her perspective on the city’s street art: “Street art is a sign of creative energy and lively city. Street art lowers the threshold for experiencing art. One does not have to necessarily go to a certain institution dedicated to displaying art like museums or art galleries. With art taking over the streets, it becomes a natural part of people’s everyday commute, making everyday life just a little bit more fun and interesting.”
Nevala advocates diversity and different formats of street art. She said, “Street art doesn’t have to be just large, impressive murals. I would also like to see smaller pieces: mosaic, knitting graffiti and so on, anything that can stimulate our imagination or just provide experience of beauty or curiosity.”
Speaking on the future of street art in Rovaniemi, Nevala said definitely there is always room for more art. “Rovaniemi is often criticised for its architecture. We are surrounded by beautiful nature, but our buildings lack history and character. Life is colourful in all its shades – let it show in our surroundings as well. In my opinion, all grey concrete could use a little colouring and plain walls can be awakened to life with art. It makes us more alert, more alive.”
She believes that being surrounded by art on a daily basis can provoke people to evaluate it and engage in discussions. She said, “Often we don’t even realise how much our public space is covered with visual noise from advertisement. Yet when it’s filled with art, it often awakens very strong opinions for and against. It just underlines more the powerful impact art can have on us and how it grabs our attention. Art is a great catalyst for discussions, like social or political issues. I would like for art to gain as much power in our surroundings as advertisement does.”
Nevala encourages creative people to share and implement their creative ideas, “Find a suitable space, contact entrepreneurs and housing cooperatives, search for sponsors and funding and leave your mark on the city. We can all make a positive impact on our cityscape. Let’s break the dull, even depressive harmony of grey concrete.”
City of Rovaniemi- Daily Finland Report.